This volume, the publication of
which has been much delayed by illness, completes what we have to say
concerning fulfilled prophecy. We have, however, in no sense exhausted
the theme: indeed, considerations of space and time have compelled us to
omit many interesting particulars from the present work. But enough, we
trust, has been retained to afford a clear view of the whole subject,
and, moreover, to completely equip any reader for further research on
his own account. A few remarks on one or two difficult points in the
book may, perhaps, render it more easily intelligible.
Commencing with chapters on the
purpose of the Church in God’s World-scheme, and on the point at which
the Mosaic Dispensation gave place to that of Grace and Truth, we go on
to show, that the Kingdom of the Heavens, which began to be preached by
John the Baptist when the Law and the Prophets had been suspended, is
the same Heavenly Kingdom as that which is now our hope and goal. For
the Jews, or the two Tribes—which had remained with the Temple of
their God, and had clung to the House of David from whence the Messiah
was to spring—were still regarded as the peculiar people of God, and,
therefore, as having the first right to the highest privileges which He
would bestow upon the human race.
For this reason it is, that, when
He represents the Heavenly calling as a Royal Banquet, the Jews are
termed "those that were bidden"; and it is only after their
refusal to come that He commands His servants to go into the Highways of
the Gentiles, and to bring in all that are willing, of every tribe and
tongue and people and nation, in order that His Banqueting-hall may be
And from this we may perceive how
intense an interest we have in the First Gospel, in which, although the
Lord is speaking to Jews, He is addressing them as those who are called
to the Heavenly Kingdom. Hence every word which He utters concerning the
Prize then set before them may be taken as directly and literally spoken
to ourselves, to whom the glorious heritage which they rejected is now
There is, also, another fact which
we ought to bear in mind, if we would understand this Gospel. During His
earth-life, the Lord could say but little of salvation by His Blood,
because the Great Sacrificial Expiation had not then been accomplished.
Hence the most of His teaching was concerned with the Prize of the
Heavenly calling, with the spirit and conduct that must characterize
those who would reign with Him above. His standard, as explained in the
"Sermon on the Mount," is, indeed, high, and far beyond the
possibilities of our unaided powers. But the circumstances made it
necessary for Him to leave to His Apostles the task of proclaiming, to
all men, both the expiation for sin which He was about to effect by His
death, and the joyful tidings, that, after His ascension, He would send
down His Holy Spirit so to change the nature of His followers that they
would be enabled to do all that was required of them.
From what has just been said, it
will be evident that the teaching from the Lord’s Own mouth is, as
might have been expected, the highest in the New Testament; for it is
directed to the training of those that are destined to be the Spiritual
Princes of the human race, and to follow the Lamb whithersoever He
The reader will now perceive why
we have thought it necessary to comment on a large portion of the Gospel
of Matthew, and especially on the "Sermon on the Mount"; that
is to say, because it is there that the Lord reveals His laws for all
those, whether Jews or Gentiles, who would attain to the Heavenly
But, in the "Sermon," He
also speaks of the judgment of those who, when they have put their hand
to the plough, look back, or are stimulated by mixed motives, or are in
any way unfaithful servants. And what we have said of the temporary
chastisements after death, with which such persons are threatened, will,
we fear, be distasteful to many readers. Let it, however, be remembered,
that the texts quoted are no opinions of ours, but the Words of God,
which, whether we like them or not, cannot be set aside, but must be
fulfilled to the last iota. If, therefore, any one demurs to the literal
and logical meaning which we have assigned to them, it is, at least,
incumbent upon him to supply a better interpretation: otherwise, his
objections can be regarded only as symptomatic of prejudice and dislike
to the doctrine evolved.
But believers often treasure up a
store of ideas, which they have either received from others or
accumulated from their own inadequate study, and sometimes regard them
as practically representing the Bible; so that, if they hear anything
contrary to them, they at once denounce it as heresy. Such persons,
also, are usually prone to forget, that the Word of God is a Living
Word, able to turn different sides of truth to men according to their
needs and circumstances; and, if it be diligently searched, to reveal,
just at the moment when the changing phases of the Church or the world
require them, things hitherto unnoticed. And yet there are but few
enlightened believers of long standing who have not proved this fact in
their own personal experience.
But, to return to the passages
which are concerned with the judgment of believers, these solemn texts
are usually ignored by Protestants; or, if, perchance, they should be
discussed, are often wrongly applied to the unsaved. As regards the
latter device for getting rid of them, our comments will, we trust,
enable an impartial reader to see, that such a means of escape is
impossible; for the "Sermon on the Mount" is addressed
exclusively to disciples of the Lord Jesus who are aspiring to the
Kingdoms while the other texts, also, have a manifest reference to
And, as to the ignoring of such
Scriptures as we do not like, or cannot explain, that is a most
dangerous expedient. For every revelation of God which is most repugnant
to our human nature is obviously the very spiritual medicine which we
are needing; if, at least, our minds are to be conformed to the mind of
God—to effect which is the great object of our probation here below.
Moreover, to decline, either to
believe what He has said, or to obey what He has commanded, on the
ground that we cannot understand it, is to place ourselves on a level
with the High and Lofty One That inhabiteth Eternity—an impious
position, from which, unless we abandon it, we shall presently be cast
down to the lowest Hell.
Beside which, in so doing, we
destroy the bridge by which alone we can pass into His Presence, and
stand among His servants that shall serve Him, and shall see His Face.
For the sole remedy for the rebellious independence of man is the
acquirement, by his own experience, of an absolute faith in God— a
faith that will not fail him even in the darkest season of perplexity.
This is, indeed, a quality far above our reach; but He has promised to
give His Holy Spirit to them that ask Him.
So much, then, for the Protestant
mode of dealing with these Judgment-texts. The Roman Catholics, on the
other hand, use some of them to prove their doctrine of Purgatory. We
cannot, however, find, in the New Testament, any such place as their
imagination has depicted. For the chastisements of believers mentioned
by the sacred writers are the carrying out of sentences pronounced by
the Lord Himself from His Judgment-seat, which can by no means be
modified or ended at the will of Ecclesiastics who style themselves His
Vicars upon earth.
Moreover, there is another and far
more serious objection to the Roman Purgatory, which should, also, act
as a caution to all those who study the subject of judgment after death.
In Orby Shipley’s Glossary of Ecclesiastical Terms, Purgatory is
defined as "a place of purification from the stains of sin after
death." But such an idea is utterly opposed to Scripture.
There is, indeed, a Shed, or
Hades, in the centre of the earth, a prison of God in which the spirits
of the children of disobedience are confined, until the time of the
Great Assize; as there is, also, a Paradise of God on High (Luke 23:43;
2 Cor. 12:4; Psa. 68:18; Eph. 4:8), whither the spirits of His faithful
servants are conducted as soon as they are freed from the body. But
there is no place in which the guilt of past transgressions can be
purged away by cleansing fires. For there is nothing that can remove the
stains of sin, either in this Age or in that which is to come, save the
Blood of the Lord Jesus; and "He is the propitiation for our
sins" (1 John 2:2).
"And in none other is
there salvation; for neither is there any other name under Heaven,
that is given among men, wherein we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
It is, then, impossible that the
pollution of guilt should be cleansed away by any chastisements that
could be allotted to the saved, either before or after death. Such
means, whenever they are applied, can only avail to humble the proud
spirit of man, and, by convincing him of his miserable and hopeless
condition, to render him more eagerly desirous, and more fully capable,
of receiving the Lord Jesus as being, on the part of God, made unto him
wisdom, as well as righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.
[1 Cor. 1:30. In this verse
redemption is mentioned after righteousness and sanctification,
because what is here meant is not the price of redemption, which the
Lord paid in full upon the cross, but the actual deliverance itself,
which is to be the result of His death, and will be effected by the
putting forth of His mighty power. It is the salvation ready to be
revealed in the last time (1 Pet. 1:5), the hope of which is the
helmet of the believer’s armour (1 Thess. 5:8).]
For it is possible to believe on
Him sufficiently for deliverance from everlasting death, without going
on "to know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the
fellowship of His sufferings, by becoming conformed unto His death"
(Phil. 3:10). And, while no real believer can fail to secure the Gift of
Everlasting Life, none but the overcomer can attain to the Prize) which
is the First Resurrection, membership in the Body of Christ, and a place
in the Heavenly Kingdom. Some further light on this important subject
may, perhaps, be obtained from a consideration of the Judgments at the
close of each of the three greater Dispensations, which the reader will
find discussed in this volume—for the first time, so far as we know.
The present neglect of the subject
of Judgment, and especially of that which will proceed from the
Judgment-seat of Christ, is to be deplored. Indeed, it appears to be
very generally supposed, that believers in the Lord Jesus, however great
their irregularities may be, have nothing to dread in the future, save a
possible lowering of their rank in the Heavenly Kingdom. But the
teaching of the New Testament is very different; and we have endeavoured
to set it forth in the following pages. For in these Laodicean times we
cannot afford to lose any warnings which God has graciously vouchsafed,
especially when we see around us, even among professing Christians, so
many who think that whatever commends itself to their own carnal minds
must, also, be pleasing in the eyes of their Almighty Creator. And so,
the guilt of disobedience is being minimized to a vanishing point, and
is quickly forgotten. For the ceaseless whirring of the now complicated
machinery of human life is suffered to drown the voice of God, so that
men do not hear Him saying; --
"These things hast thou
done, and I kept silence;
Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such a one as thyself.
But I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine
Yes; all the unpardoned sins which
men have done, and forgotten long ago, must again be set in order before
their eyes: not one of them will be wanting in the dread hour when the
Books are opened.
So far as memory serves us, there
is no other point in connection with the subjects of this book which
requires more elucidation than may be found in the text.
We would, however, invite special
attention to the sections that explain the term "Kingdom of the
Heavens," and the relation of John the Baptist and Elijah; to the
comments on the "Sermon on the Mount," which is here regarded
as the Lord’s Manual for the use of those who would fain be very near
to Him in the coming Age; to the exposition of the phrase "Light of
the World," of the Lord’s Prayer, and of Paul’s thorn in the
flesh; to our remarks on the Transfiguration as revealing a most
important crisis in the Lord’s work for us; to the section on the
Parable of the Marriage-feast, and its Dispensational teaching; and to
what is said of the Vision of the Lampstands and Stars, and its lessons
for those who would cultivate Philadelphian Christianity.
In regard to the two aspects of
Church-history given in the Seven Parables and the Seven Epistles, it
must surely be confessed by every one who studies them, that they afford
a wonderful manifestation of God’s knowledge of the end from the
beginning, and an unanswerable proof of the Divine origin of the Bible.
Moreover, they are especially valuable, because they enable us to
understand the earthly career of the Church from God’s point of view,
and with His connecting links; just as the Seventy-eighth Psalm
furnishes us with a similar revelation concerning the mysterious history
of the chosen people in the previous Age.
The prophecies concerning the
Church are, however, scanty as compared with those of Israel, and
contain little reference to the Kingdoms of the World. For the Lord’s
people of the present Age are a Heavenly and not an Earthly Election.
Hence it is not their duty to watch and study the politics of this
world, but to turn "unto God from idols, to serve a Living and True
God, and to wait for His Son from the Heavens."
It is hoped that some fresh light
may be thrown upon the Apocalypse by the scheme of interpretation here
adopted, which is framed upon the first verse, with a corrected
rendering, the tenth, and the nineteenth. Its construction is thus found
to be the same as that of Daniel’s more important prophecies, that is
to say, it is a prophecy of the End, or of the Seventieth of Daniel’s
Sevens of Years, which is connected with the days of the beloved Apostle
by a light sketch of the Church-period—chap. 2, 3 — from about AD 96
to the close of the present parenthetical Age.
This book, like other works of the
author, has been written in hope that, spite of its many defects, the
Great Head of the Church may be graciously pleased to accept and use it
as a slight aid to those who desire to know the wondrous revelations of
His Word, but have neither time nor opportunity for prayerful study and
meditation. To Him be the Glory and the Dominion for ever and ever.
"Lo, these are but the outskirts of His ways,
And how small a whisper do we hear of Him!
But the thunder of His power who can understand!"